Brotherly Game) New York City FC has been hot or cold this season - rattling off three wins in a row before going winless in four (including the 7-0 thrashing at the hands of the New York Red Bulls). What's the reason for this, and which NYCFC will show up on Saturday?
Hudson River Blues) I think if anyone at the club had a good answer we’d be more proactive about changing the tide. A lot is coming down to our home field disadvantage. One win, five draws and three loses at home is really, really bad, and the sample size is large enough for us to admit that we have issues. Yankee Stadium is extremely narrow and it encourages direct play. Unfortunately, NYC FC thrive in space, controlling the midfield and building up the play. We’ve tinkered with several different formations, including our 3-back, W-M formation, but nothing has clicked for us.
There have been personnel issues as well, where Vieira has combined players that don’t mesh well together, but if you’re looking for a reason number one for our swings of good and bad play, it’s the homestands versus the run of fixtures away.
tBG) What has NYCFC done during the break to indicate they're going to get back on track in the second half of the season?
HRB) I feel like you’re baiting me – Good news, I’m taking the bait. Nothing productive at all. We lost, embarrassingly, at Fordham University playing the Cosmos. We’re now winless against all New York clubs (four Red Bulls and two Cosmos losses), and our supporters are angry, and rightfully so. We put a painfully inexperienced and weak squad on the field after Patrick Vieira ensured fans we would be taking the competition seriously, and once again we lost to a worse team. Our results coming into this break and after the loss are pushing our supporters to question the direction of the club and what it means to be run by the shady City Football Group.
We are, of course, still in the Playoff hunt, so I feel some results in our favor will bring about a bit more positivity among the ranks. That being said, meeting a strong Union team is a tough task for a team that is reeling. My guess is if we fall behind early the fans will express their frustrations in a big way.
tBG) There's no avoiding the elephant in the room - New York City FC fans are quickly gaining a reputation for Euro-wannabe hooliganism and violence. Obviously this is not every NYCFC fan, but these repeated incidents reflect poorly on everyone involved with the club. What is being done to stop this behavior, especially from NYCFC's Front Office and Supporter's Groups?
HRB) So there has been some disconnect between the average fans and these incidents, so much so that I was fairly unaware of our reputation until the away Union match and the NYRB match. We are in the news again for our fans clashing with the Cosmos fans, and all I can say is that we are very, very disappointed in the groups within our supporters that instigate and promote violence. Of course, pigeonholing all NYC FC fans is not fair as you mentioned, but it is fair to ask questions of the club.
Proactive groups within our ranks have begun to push back at the club for not doing more to stymie this legitimate issue by calling and emailing their representatives at the club, but I have to say we are disappointed in the club for not taking a stand or even issuing a statement against the aggressive subsections of our fan base. We want very dearly to improve the way other teams see our fans, but change must come from within, and leadership from the club is lacking.
Injuries, suspensions, etc.: Connor Brandt is out with injury, while Jack Harrison, Frank Lampard and Ethan White are questionable but should be available.
Predicted starting XI: Josh Saunders; Ronald Matarrita, Frederic Brillant, Jason Hernandez, RJ Allen; Andrea Pirlo, Federico Bravo, Mix Diskerud, Tommy McNamara, David Villa, Stiven Mendoza